Nuggets Bail Out the Warriors – Again!

So, the No. 7 seed is out. Dallas will make the playoffs, and rightfully so. They’ve earned it with Sunday’s huge road win, something the Warriors could not pull off.
It’s not official, but the Warriors trail Mavs by two games with five to play. If the Warriors went 4-1, Dallas would have to go 1-4 for the Warriors to have a better record. The Mavericks close vs. Seattle and Utah, then at Portland and Seattle before closing vs. New Orleans.
So that leaves the Warriors vying with Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot. And though Golden State isn’t getting it done on its own, as it did late last season, the Nuggets are proving to be even more un-clutch.
Losing to Sac at home and at Seattle shows that Denver doesn’t have it. Their defense is atrocious. At least the Warriors force turnovers here and there. The Nuggets don’t even do that.
The Warriors last remaining tasks: win at home. They host the Kings, Nuggets, Clippers and Sonics. Win these games and the worst they can do is go 4-1 over these last five. That should be enough, because it would force the Nuggets to go 4-1 to finish tied with the Warriors. Denver has three more road games (At Clippers, Warriors and Jazz) before closing at home against Houston and Memphis.
The way they’ve played the last two games, it doesn’t look good for Denver fans.


Where is Jax?

In the two biggest games of the year, at San Antonio and Dallas, Jackson was no where to be found.
Not only did he not produce his usual production, but he was awful – on both ends of the court. He was a hindrance with his jump shooting habit, and he failed to make up for his offensive woes in other areas.
True, several Warriors played poorly. Ellis was terrible in San Antonio. He was a little bit better in Dallas, but his trigger-happy ways hurt the Warriors. Al Harrington has been off, but he has his sprained thumb as a cover.
The one guy who did show up, who – say what you will about him – always shows up, was Baron Davis. While everyone else was chucking jumpers, he was forcing himself to the basket 1-on-2 and 1-on-3. (Let that be a lesson for those who say let BD walk and give the team to Monta. He’s doing so well because he’s playing next to Baron.)
The Warriors can afford bad games from Ellis, because they have Kelenna Azubuike (who is ballin’ lately). They can afford bad games from Harrington because they can go with Biedrins or Barnes or Pietrus when he’s healthy.
The Warriors CANNOT afford awful performances from Jackson when the stakes are so high. Maybe he can play a less-than-steller game, or a below-the-averages game. But he can’t be a downright liability on both ends of the court. Not with the playoffs hanging in the balance.
Jackson has to find a way to produce even on bad nights. If his jumper isn’t falling, if he’s not getting the calls, if he’s not feeling well, he still has to find a way to produce. He has to.
The fact that he disappeared is a huge concern, and exposes perhaps the flaw that will keep the Warriors out of the postseason: this team is not as good when Stephen Jackson is the second-best player. Forget his temper, which he’s controlled. Forget his lack of rebounding, or his propensityf or turnovers. Can the Warriors rely on a player who literally lives and dies by the jumper?
Maybe I’m overreacting. I like Jackson, as a person and a player. I think he’s really good. But I think these last two games exposed him.


Does it all come down to tonight?

Sure, if the Warriors lose to the Mavericks and run the table, they’re in.
But the reality is, they DESPERATELY need this game tonight. Losing it would not only drop them a game behind Denver and two games behind Dallas, it would be a total buzz kill. This group hasn’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of January. To suffer a losing streak now would probably zap the zeal right out of the Warriors, especially coming off the spanking they got from San Antonio.
This is more than just about getting even in the standings. This is more than just securing a tie-breaker option. This is a statement game. This game lets Dallas and Denver know that they’re fighting for one spot, because the Warriors are in. It’s going to be hard to believe they have it in them if they can’t pull this game out.